Clinton moves to ease tension over EC trade: President tells Delors that US does not want dispute

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The Independent Online
PRESIDENT Bill Clinton moved yesterday to allay mounting fears of a fulls-cale breakdown of trade relations between between the United States and Europe, telling reporters that he did not want a trade war with the European Community 'and I don't think we'll have one'.

Simultaneously, in a separate move which might ease tensions, the US International Trade Commission (ITC) ruled that shipments here of British steel rail, said to be dumped at less than their fair value, did not harm domestic producers. The ruling means the British suppliers, who compete with two US companies, no longer face punitive sanctions.

Mr Clinton was speaking at a brief White House meeting with Jacques Delors, highpoint of the first day of a 48-hour visit to Washington by the EC President, focused inevitably on the growing frictions in trade affairs since the Democratic administration took office here in January. These involve issues ranging from the still deadlocked discussions on a new round of Gatt trade talks to the European Airbus consortium and the Commerce Department's levy of swingeing extra duties affecting dollars 2.6bn ( pounds 1.8bn) of allegedly unfair exports of steel from several European countries, including Britain.

Yesterday EC officials here were dampening expectations of any dramatic breakthrough in Mr Delors' talks with the President. The White House described the 20-minute encounter as a 'courtesy call', offering the two men a first chance of a face-to-face session.

Indeed, the most substantive discussion of transatlantic trade problems were expected in other meetings on Mr Delors's programme, notably with the Treasury Secretary, Lloyd Bentsen, the National Security Adviser, Anthony Lake, and Robert Rubin, in charge of the newly-created economic council at the White House.

Earlier, Mr Delors avoided direct reference to the various trade disputes in a speech at a conference, confining himself to warning both sides they must develop a 'more effective macro-economic dialogue' if the world economy was to be re-invigorated, and cautioning against any attempt by one 'to impose its political or economic system on the other'.

He insisted the US and Europe must co-operate in helping Russia and other successor states of the former Soviet Union 'or we will pay for it tomorrow in terms of political insecurity and economic instability'. The topic will dominate his talks with Strobe Talbott, Mr Clinton's new co-ordinator of policy to the former Soviet Union and Eastern Europe.